The audio revolution: a revisit from the past

Clubhouse’s recent frenzy begs the question: what is it about this old format that is so influential?

How exactly did Clubhouse manage to spearhead a frenzy right now?

Maybe, it is the exclusive nature of its on-boarding. Or maybe, it is just another physical evidence of the fact that when you mix audio and marketing, you are setting yourself up for a billion dollars valuation.

For eons, brands have been racking their brains to personalize customer experience at every possible step. What they came up with however, was still largely superficial and digital. Flat design and smart interface, the persuasive copy in minimalistic font and the few tweaks in algorithms are great developments, but still not the peak of personalization. All of these features are parading around as conversation-starters with your users but it’s not really a conversation.

Enter podcasts, audiobooks, voice assistants, audio-only ads, audio-live streaming, ASMR (or largely, just Youtube), earpods and you realize how much the entire industry is scurrying to please the auditory nerves. I mean, Spotify has either a fully-functioning or a work-in-progress product for at least three items listed above.

Which begs the question: what is it about this old format that is so influential?

Uncertainty is attractive

One of the reasons the audio format is so popular right now is because speech reveals uncertainty. The ‘uh’ you drag when you are searching for the right word, the amount of times you use ‘like’ in a sentence where it has no business being, the subtle ways in which you clear your throat in the middle of a sentence, and the ability to care not at all about grammar is what makes this so appealing. No, I was not reciting a Rupi Kaur poem here; I was talking about what makes us human. This is why audio works: it reveals your personality. And when you market your personality, that makes your authenticity a feature of personalization.

You could write a really witty article (like this one) but the minute you convert your text into audio and add a swirl of conversation into it, you are bound to extend that powerhouse of knowledge to a larger audience. And what’s better is that a larger audience will remember what you said. Not really ‘what’ you said per se, but more like ‘how’ you said it. Our brain remembers accents, enunciations, innuendos more than it remembers the contents of a text-heavy article. For all the non-premium users of Spotify, just think about the time you came across an audio ad (one with its witty pop-culture references) for the first time; it was bound to elicit a chuckle. But when you come across it a week later, there is a huge chance you can recite the entire ad. That’s the power of good audio. It makes you remember things you don’t recall memorising.

And this is exactly what makes Clubhouse so powerful as well. Authenticity is what makes conversations in such rooms so rare to come across. No longer written by their PR teams (although may be guided) but what an influencer, a venture capitalist or a poet thinks about the topic.

The desire to multitask

Doesn’t matter how busy the world gets, people are always into knowledge and learning. It just has to be modulated to fit the few minutes a professional has in their day.

Which isn’t very likely to happen if you want to consume deeply researched content. So naturally, when the idea of multitasking entered the lives of knowledge-hungry humans, they weren’t about to part with it anytime soon. And audio format, in some way allows exactly that. From podcasts to Youtube (which is as much an audio platform as much as Spotify) videos, the competition of condensing huge chunks of diversely-researched content into bite-sized episodes so as to grasp the listener’s interests is increasing.

The nature of audio format makes it possible for a person to gain insights about their interests while doing their chores or travelling in the train. In fact, this has grown exponentially that India has now become the third-largest podcast listening market in the world. That’s how many people are willing to fit in an extra bite of knowledge in their lives.

What’s in store

The audio revolution is not in the future anymore, it has already hit us. Just take a look at Siri or Alexa or Google Assistant or Microsoft’s Cortana; they are all acing multipurpose. Audio has extended from a niche’s interest (like audiobooks, podcasts) to something people across all ages can enjoy: kids taking their help to complete their homework, teenagers using it to learn about pop culture and adults telling these AI-powered voice assistants to make their bookings. It is overpowering and yet, empowering us every day.

Now, circling back to the audio hot-shot we started this article with, Clubhouse has its own plans for expanding its popularity by starting up creator programs. What it plans to do is incubate and support talent in addition to adding verified badges for every Elon Musk out there.

Speaking of the biggest influencer there is, he, via Neuralink, has big plans to revolutionize the way we interact with music. Instead of listening, he wants to put music directly into our brain by incorporating microchips into our brain.

But all these were fairly expected albeit not predictable. But the airline industry incorporating audio in their experience to embellish flavors in food is an odd one. According to research, certain sounds boost certain flavours and diminish others. For example, high pitch notes induce sweetness while low pitch sounds amplify the bitter experience. Music composers are actually hired by the industry now to curate sounds specific to meals.

Audio in marketing’s ambit is endless and it’s not going to die anytime soon. So rev up and get an inch closer to your consumer with audio marketing.

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